Vermont Democratic Party 2012 Platform
As Amended & Approved by the State Committee of the VDP
And by the Vermont Democratic Party Platform Convention
September 22, 2012
VERMONT DEMOCRATIC PARTY
STATEMENT OF PRINCIPLES
The Vermont Democratic Party believes the rights to health care, food, shelter, clean air and water, education, privacy, justice, peace and equality, to organize, and to speak freely are essential to a robust democracy. These rights are not negotiable. When any Vermonter lacks or is denied any of these basic essentials, the fabric of our community is torn and all of us are harmed.
We believe that all citizens have a responsibility to be informed, engaged participants in our democracy. As engaged citizens, we will work toward the establishment of economically and environmentally sustainable communities that regain and maintain the ecological health of our state and contribute to the health of our country and the planet.
We expect elected officials, their staffs and their appointees to govern compassionately, competently, honorably, truthfully, and with fiscal integrity and transparency. We demand that all elected officials fully adhere to their oaths of office and defend the Constitutions of Vermont and of the United States at all times, using all lawful means available to them through their office.
Based on the principles of the Vermont and U.S. Constitutions, we stand against torture, bigotry and discrimination, forced childbirth or sterilization, corruption, and the establishment of state sponsored religion or the imposition of any religious doctrine upon the citizenry, whether by government action or inaction.
We judge the success of a democratic society by how it treats its most vulnerable members.
Therefore, in everything we do – every policy, law, and regulation – we must consider the effects of our actions not only on us, but also on the lives and futures of our children and succeeding generations.
A. ECONOMIC OPPORTUNITY:
Economic opportunity in Vermont should be available to all its citizens. The priority focus of economic growth and opportunity resides in Vermonter-owned and operated businesses where public and private investments in workforce, capital plant, and intellectual property remain in Vermont. Entrepreneurship and self-employment are vital components of Vermont’s economic success because they create opportunity, meaningful work, and wealth. We are committed to a diversely developed and stable economy that supports a strong and vibrant middle class and encourages our young adults to establish careers here in their home state. Business, government, labor, and environmental groups must be jointly responsible for incorporating Vermont values and resources in building economic opportunity for all.
1. Economic Development and Job Creation:
1. We are committed to the timely establishment of state-of-the-art, locally controlled universal broadband telecommunications services statewide as a basic element of economic infrastructure.
2. Agriculture, quarrying, and forestry businesses are the historical, cultural, and economic foundation of Vermont. We support measures that encourage sustainable farms in diverse areas of agriculture to thrive as vital elements in the continued success of our economy. We support sustainable and ecologically sensitive uses of Vermont’s natural resources in ways that provide necessary materials and that create economic opportunities.
3. We will pursue fiscally responsible incentives to attract and strengthen small and large businesses committed to Vermont especially in the areas of the state where the local economy is struggling or where there is the need for the repair or the building of new infrastructure.
4. We encourage the development of jobs that provide workers with a livable wage, the right to organize and collectively bargain for wages and benefits, and that improve working conditions and the standard of living for Vermont workers.
5. Our economic development strategy will address the costs and provision of energy and energy savings measures, as well as the decoupling of health insurance from place of employment, access to quality childcare and early education as part of workforce development, job creation, and job security for working parents.
6. In an effort to maintain vibrant town centers and to avoid sprawl, we will support businesses located or attempting to locate in downtowns, village centers, and growth centers.
7. Where there is proposed new business development or expansion, we will support giving priority to redevelopment of currently unused industrial space in “brownfields” or currently permitted industrial parks or sites throughout the state, before virgin land is developed for that purpose.
8. We will support measures to give small businesses access to capital and assistance in meeting regulatory requirements and encourage the development of new business that may be needed.
2. Job Retention:
We will work against outsourcing and privatization of state and public-sector jobs, outsourcing of private-sector jobs, and off-shoring of jobs to other countries or to employers who ignore the rights of workers; such practices undermine workers’ rights, adversely affect local economies, destroy community safety nets, and threaten the environment.
3. Regulatory Review:
1. We will encourage the review of environmental land use, economic development, affordable housing development, and all other programs, policies and regulations in order to assess their suitability, their successful (and unsuccessful) components, ensure accountability, and streamline their processes.
2. We will support the right of public input and the need to protect the public good in the regulatory process.
3. We will work to foster close working partnerships among federal, state, regional, local and private agencies that are involved in all aspects of development (including housing, business, economic development, infrastructure and job creation).
4. We will actively seek to identify and resolve conflicting regulations, which may act as unintended barriers to the success of Vermont’s small businesses, economic and affordable housing developers.
4. Job Training:
We are committed to public and private investment to prepare Vermonters to adapt to changing occupations, to compete in the global economy, to meet the need for emerging “green economy” jobs in Vermont and to become more economically successful.
5. Fair Taxation:
1. We will continue to work to reverse the damage done by the federal tax shifts made by the last Republican presidential administration, which placed a greater burden on Vermonters. We will replace the failed supply-side policies that on the state and federal levels wasted surpluses and created debts to be paid by our children and grandchildren.
We will continue working to undo the damage done to Vermont’s infrastructure by eight years of a Republican administration’s neglect, abandonment, destruction, and deliberate disrepair.
2. We are committed to returning to a policy of fiscal responsibility including fair taxation based on ability to pay, investment in our shared infrastructure, and funding for programs that support working Vermonters and the vulnerable in our society. The ceiling of FICA (social security) taxation should be raised to $225,000.00 of income.
B. ENVIRONMENTAL STEWARDSHIP, INVESTMENT and CONSERVATION:
A healthy environment is essential to overall public health, and therefore to Vermont's economy and quality of life. We recognize global climate change as the major challenge of our time. We accept our moral and ethical obligation to do all that we can to protect and conserve our environment, for ourselves and for future generations. As a party, we are committed to environmental stewardship. Therefore, we are committed to the rigorous and consistent enactment and impartial enforcement of appropriate environmental laws and regulations.
1. Investment in Sustainability:
1. We support sustainable business principles, and will continue to encourage local businesses that keep profits circulating within our local communities and statewide.
2. We support private and public investment in conservation and other energy-efficiency measures to achieve energy independence and reduce basic energy costs for Vermonters.
3. We are committed to sustainable energy investment within Vermont’s borders, providing jobs, training, ownership, and accountability to Vermonters. We support the investment of labor and money in inventing, producing, utilizing and distributing new and old technologies that harness or conserve renewable energy resources such as, but not limited to: solar, geothermal, biomass, and wind.
2. Conservation and Environmental Protection:
1. We respect private property rights and support regulations and laws that: discourage pollution and wasteful land consumption; promote conservation of Vermont’s working landscape of geologic, farm and forest lands; and protect threatened and endangered species. We support the goals of Vermont’s land-use planning laws and other foundations of environmental law such as the Endangered Species Act.
2. We will support research into and promote new designs and technologies that prevent or mitigate habitat-loss and preserve a sustainable environment.
3. We must establish systems to control or mitigate problematic runoff from all sources to create cleaner watersheds. We will equitably and rigorously enforce all applicable laws for sewage treatment and runoff.
4. We will work to eliminate the introduction of invasive species in Vermont.
1. Investment in transportation infrastructure facilitates employment, expands economic and cultural opportunities, and strengthens family ties. We support incentives for the expansion of alternative and public transportation, including commuter, freight and passenger rail and urban and rural bus services with priority to underserved businesses, areas and people.
2. We will make it a priority to restore and maintain the integrity and safety of our transportation network. We will seek to preserve highways, decrease carbon emissions, and lower transportation costs by shifting freight traffic to a modernized rail system wherever possible.
4. Climate change and energy policy:
1. We support efforts to reduce Vermont’s dependence on fossil fuel consumption and an aging nuclear plant for generation of electricity, thermal use, and transportation. Therefore, we support a transition from nuclear and fossil fuel to sustainable, reliable, renewable, low-impact energy sources, including hydro, wind, solar, geo-thermal, and biomass where appropriate.
2. We support the goals of the 2011 Comprehensive Energy Plan, a multi-agency initiative to address Vermont’s energy future. This includes a path to obtain 90% of our total energy from renewable sources by 2050, using strategies which include the Clean Energy Development Fund and Vermont S.P.E.E.D. program (sustainably priced energy).
3. We support energy efficiency first as the easiest and least costly method of saving energy. We also support smart-growth land use choices which promote energy savings.
Democrats understand that “we, the people of Vermont,” are “the government.” We stand for the separation of powers among the Legislative, Executive and Judicial branches of government as defined in the Constitution, held to account by voters informed by a free press. The work of our government must be conducted with transparency, fairness, responsibility, and accountability at all levels.
1. Sound Fiscal Policy:
1. Because sound fiscal policy is vital to the beneficial operation of government, we support responsible spending, proportional taxation, and the creation of protections against revenue shortfalls.
2. We support ongoing and timely investment in current and future infrastructure, children’s health, education, and green technologies as a hallmark of good government and sound fiscal policy that will reduce future costs.
3. Government officeholders and their appointees must be accountable to taxpayers for their ethical and fiscal actions.
2. Managing State Government:
1. We are committed to consistent, fair enforcement of regulations and to improvement in coordination among state agencies in accordance with best practices to preserve civil rights.
2. Decision-making on improvements in government services – in efficiency, cost effectiveness, and in coordination – must involve front-line state employees, management, and those who receive services and interact with state agencies, including local government bodies.
3. We demand adherence to all open meeting and open records laws.
3. Campaign Finance Reform and Public Financing:
We are committed to substantive campaign finance reforms, including public financing that will withstand court challenges and working to practically counteract and legally reverse the Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United.
We are committed to transparency in the funding of elections, and support efforts to digitize campaign finance reports, to make the information easily accessible to the public.
1. We support measures to educate and encourage all citizens to exercise their right and fulfill their responsibility to vote, including same-day voter registration.
2. We are committed to exploring ways to promptly accomplish the election of statewide officers so as to fairly reflect the will of the electorate when no candidate receives over 50 percent of the votes cast.
3. We insist on free and fair elections with accountability for all electoral votes via clear paper trails to verify voter choices.
We support individual liberty and the community of citizens caring for and about each other. Laws and regulations must be administered so that all Vermonters are treated equally.
1. Equality Before the Law:
1. We will act promptly and unapologetically to address inequalities, including monitoring the actions of law enforcement, other state agency personnel, entities receiving state funding, and powerful economic entities for conscious or unconscious bias.
2. We support the addition of equal rights amendments to the United States and Vermont Constitutions and the protection of all citizens, regardless of race, gender or gender identity, sexual orientation, national origin, disability, military service, or creed.
3. We celebrate having achieved legal equality in Vermont for gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender individuals and couples, and we will continue to press our Congressional delegation to pass similar legislation at the national level and to repeal existing discriminatory laws including the Defense of Marriage Act.
Likewise, we will urge our Attorney General to seek legal redress for the continuing federal discrimination against LGBT Vermonters.
4. We will ensure that all agencies and officers of state government act with respect for the dignity, individuality, and cultural distinctiveness of Vermont’s Native American peoples. We support them in their quest for formal tribal recognition.
2. Workers’ Rights:
1. We believe that government must ensure the rights of employees to organize a union, bargain collectively, and to work free from discrimination in a safe, healthy and fair environment.
2. We support the enforcement of all federal, state, county and municipal laws that protect workers.
3. We support full funding of pension obligations to all state and school employees, without shifting additional burdens to local property taxpayers.
3. Support for Worker’s Rights and Human Rights Worldwide:
The Vermont Democratic Party supports workers rights and human rights throughout the world. We recognize the importance of respecting the universal human rights of all people. These efforts must include seeking peace between Israelis and Palestinians. A just and lasting Israeli-Palestinian accord, producing two states for two peoples, would contribute to regional stability.
In addition, we support the rights of all Chinese people and the right of the Tibetan people to preserve their cultural and religious identity. And we support a one China policy, the Taiwan Relations Act, and the peaceful resolution of cross-Strait issues that is consistent with the wishes and best interests of the people of Taiwan.
We support efforts to continue partnerships with African nations to combat Al-Qaeda affiliates in places like Somalia and to bring to justice those who commit mass atrocities, like Joseph Kony. We urge greater efforts to reduce the violence in Darfur and to support the development of South Sudan’s future.
E. BUILDING HEALTHY COMMUNITIES:
We believe that education, health care, housing, and other essential human services from the foundation of healthy Vermont communities.
We are committed to supporting affordable, quality childcare as essential to our young children's development and a key to building our economy.
1. We will ensure that all Vermonters have access to equal opportunities for a quality public education, including early childhood education, affordable and accessible higher education, and continuing education for adults.
2. We support the existing law that currently provides for public high school choice, as well as community-based public funding for non-sectarian schools in communities that do not have their own public schools.
3. We demand that the federal government fully fund all federal mandates for education. In particular, the special education needs of children with disabilities must be funded in the same spirit and to at least the same degree as other federal commitments to communities.
3. Health Care:
1. We believe that access to appropriate, affordable, and accessible quality medical care is the right of every human being.
2. We are committed to reducing costs and improving services within a system where every Vermonter, without regard to employment or income level, has access to health care, required prescription drugs, and long-term care. The system must offer a choice of health care providers, who are accountable to the public for quality of service, and patient fees must be based on ability to pay.
3. We will ensure the right of Vermonters to medical privacy. All Vermonters have the right to seek and receive complete, accurate, and science-based information on family planning, pregnancy services, and the prevention of sexually transmitted diseases. We reaffirm the universal right of women to make decisions regarding abortion and other reproductive health issues, free from harassment and interference by government or other entities.
4. We will ensure the right of terminally ill Vermonters and their families to be informed of their end-of-life options and to have access to a careful, deliberate process in private consultation with their medical professional, in choosing the circumstances and manner of their deaths.
5. We support meaningful disclosure and limitations on marketing and gifts to physicians and other prescribing medical providers by pharmaceutical and medical device manufacturers, in the interest of reducing any undue influence of pharmaceutical and medical device manufacturers on physician practice.
6. We believe in promoting prevention as a cornerstone of our health care policy. A clean environment, access to healthful foods, good diet, maintaining physically fit bodies, regular exercise, and active patient participation in maintaining their own health, is essential to managing costs.
4. Aging population:
1. We will encourage businesses and agencies to provide flexible job opportunities based on ability without regard to age.
2. We will strive to provide for Vermonters’ health, security, and social well being throughout their life span.
5. Crime Prevention:
1. Democrats believe that by focusing on the causes of crime and its prevention through education, drug treatment, deterrence, and adequate funding of law enforcement agencies, including police, State’s Attorneys, Public Defenders, Victim Advocates, Corrections Department (including Probation and Parole staff) and courts at all levels, we can protect our citizens and communities and decrease the costs of incarceration.
2. Vermont Democrats decry the for-profit and out-of-state warehousing of prisoners as detrimental to the safety of communities: it separates prisoners from family and community ties necessary to their successful and safe rehabilitation and reintegration into the Vermont communities in which they will be released.
3. The safety of Vermont communities is best served by lowering the recidivism rate of offenders. Vermont Democrats support the funding of diversion programs, drug treatment programs, post-release services, supervision, job training, and transitional housing to achieve that goal. We support efforts to decriminalize small amounts of marijuana in order to take the economic strain off our law enforcement and prisons.
We will work to promote home ownership and housing for all within existing town and city development zones. We support the construction of affordable housing and moderately priced homes as well as housing that is accessible to the elderly and people with disabilities. We will work to uphold minimum housing standards throughout the state.
1. We are committed to restoring and increasing funding for programs to subsidize low-income rental housing.
2. Because deteriorating lead paint in older housing causes permanent IQ loss in young children who ingest or inhale it, we support funding universal lead testing of one- and two-year-olds for early detection, and lead paint remediation assistance to homeowners and landlords.
3. The Vermont Democratic Party believes all Vermonters should have access to home heating products sufficient to heat their homes. The Party supports the following:
a. Fully funding low-income home heating assistance and weatherization programs.
b. Increasing Vermonters’ awareness of where to seek assistance to pay for home heating products.
c. Increasing income eligibility for home heating and weatherization assistance.
d. Policies to restrict speculator control of energy futures contracts.
F. ENDING THE CONFLICT IN IRAQ & AFGHANISTAN:
1. Prompt Withdrawal:
The Bush Administration’s ill-advised and deadly invasion of Iraq led to a war of aggression against a country that posed no threat to the United States. This war has resulted in the deaths of thousands of innocent civilians, increased worldwide hostility to the United States and weakened our national defense. In Vermont, the Afghanistan War and our military involvement in Iraq have caused a disproportionate burden of casualties among our National Guard and Vermonters in other military services and diverted resources away from vital human needs.
Therefore, the Vermont Democratic Party calls for the prompt withdrawal of U.S. forces from hostilities in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Vermont Democrats call for our national Congressional delegation to ensure the government promptly provides all necessary support services to all military personnel and their families throughout their war-related deployments and beyond and opposes starting a new war with Iran.
We hold these principles, goals and commitments in common as members of the Vermont Democratic Party and will work together and individually, to the best of our ability, to promote them as the guiding ideology of a just and fair government.
Respectfully submitted by the 2012 VDP Message, Communications & Platform Committee, Drafted by Secretary James Valente
Stephen Amos, Chair
Adopted as amended by the Vermont Democratic Party